Finger-pointing First Over Brum Deal

By Anthony Vickers on Mar 17, 12 02:11 PM

TONY Mowbray was scathing about Boro's porous defence after a bruising defeat at Birmingham. Which was a first. Not the bruising defeat. The inconsistent team have been thumped before several times this season by on-songs teams with a cutting edge; teams like Southampton, West Ham, Blackpool, Reading and now Birmingham.

But significantly it was the first time this term a boss generally very protective of his team has been so pointed and public in his criticism of the players after a game.

And you can't blame him after the battering at Birmingham.

You can see his point. After a water-tight start to the season Boro had the best defensive record in the Championship until a month ago. In fact, they are still right up there up at the top of the clean sheets table.

But the ravages of a jittery January in which they were badly beaten three times dented the once impressive statistics and left stuttering Boro looking habitually fragile at the back left their play-off hopes in the balance.

We rationalised it at the time as being the effect of losing the impressive human shield of influential tackling machine Nicky Bailey for eight weeks.

But Bailey is back now and the defence is still shipping goals, still looking nervous when under pressure - especially late on - and still dropping clangers in the penalty area.

Against Leeds Boro were chaotic in defence as they were sliced open by quick passing moves on the break and failed to prevent unmarked runs into the box.

And at Birmingham it was carnage at the back too.

Some suicidal slack marking at St Andrews and a repeated failure to cut out a string of dangerous crosses - especially from livewire Chris Burke who had the freedom of Boro's left flank - gifted City an embarrassingly easy win.

They allowed Balkan beanpole Nikola Zigic - a Primark Peter Crouch - a free header for the first half opener then twice cheaply conceded possession and failed to deal with quick breaks as they leaked two killer goals in three minutes after the break.

Balls zipped in from both sides without being attacked, headers and tackles were missed, loose balls squirted about and weren't cleared, men wriggled free of their markers at will... it was chaos.

So you can understand why a frustrated Mowbray pointed the finger clearly at the brittle back line after the second city surrender.

"Our downfall was of our own making," he said bluntly. "It was self-inflicted. We lost because we made too many elementary mistakes.

"We didn't defend our box well enough. We allowed them to put too many crosses in and too much space in the box to attack them.

"We went down to a very basic free header in the box then just when we looked to be getting back into it we gifted them two goals. It's not rocket science. People have to do their jobs better. We have to cut out those mistakes.

"I have to give the defence credit for the vast majority of the season when they have done well but have to say that the last couple of games the goals we have conceded have been very poor."

Which is all well and good. No one would seriously argue that the disorganised defence played well or should be spared the sting of criticism.

But the problems started much higher up the pitch.

It was a collective failure and everyone should bear their share of the recriminations. Every department and the dug-out too. If the defence at Birmingham was a mess where do you start with the mis-shaped midfield? The failure to create chances by a blunt frontline? And the failed experimental 343 shape as a whole?

Neither the midfield nor the front three - which quickly became a front one - had featured together before in those permutations and it showed as they played like strangers.

The midfield widemen - full-back Joe Bennett and Justin Hoyte - were supposed to add width and pace going forward and to be fair at time they did trouble Birmingham and get behind the defence to put in decent crosses. One from Hoyte set up Boro's best chance which Lukas Jutkiewicz somehow steered wide when it was still just 1-0.

But when they pushed forward they left massive space behind them and when Birmingham quickly countered down those channels - especially the left - they had a free run as neither Julio Arca nor Kevin Thomson had the pace to cover the gaps. That allowed Birmingham free reign down the flanks to pepper the box with crosses.

That was the root cause of Boro's tactical problems.

Yes, it was compounded by individual mistakes. And not just at the back. In midfield there were plenty of missed tackles, stray balls, woeful decisions in distribution plus dithering over the ball and little sense of coherent strategy or belief.

Both second half strikes stemmed not from the defence but from hesitation on the ball in midfield as Adam Hammill allowed City men to steal it and spark quick counters. And there was plenty of that. Cheaply conceded possession and systematic failure to cut out simple balls through the middle. It was a mess.

A 343 is more often associated with the Dutch and total football But this was total chaos. It was an over-elaborate intellectual solution to a pressing problem. It was the kin dof thing my boy tries on Football Manager. As was the triple substitution.

But we have to accept it wasn't a shape plucked out of the air on a whim. It was an attempt to patch up some gaping holes in the first team and find a system to try to win the game. Maybe it was too adventurous, too clever? Maybe a more orthodox and more defensive set-up would have brought more reward.

But we also have to accept that the limitations of Boro's thin squad leave little wriggle room when a few key men are out. Without banned Barry Robson and injured Rhys Williams - out for the foreseeable - Boro are lightweight and limited in the engine-room lacking drive and quality going forward. But we knew that. It does not bode well for the next few crucial weeks of the campaign.

And there is an institutional lack of goals in the team. With Robson in the sin-bin, Scott McDonald on crutches and Marvin Emnes on the bench there is little fire-power. But we knew that too.

Of the starting line-up Matthew Bates was the top scorer with three. Fellow defenders Seb Hines and Tony McMahon have netted this season but none of the four in midfield or either side of the frontman have scored. Even Lukas Jutkiewicz, who has 11 for the season in the hotshots chart, has only scored once for Boro.

That is where the real problems lie. And that is the tactical circle that must be squared by the gaffer in the final straight.

Yes, we need to tighten up at the back and stop leaking sloppy goals. That is a given. But without finding a way that can provide some teeth and some goals by hook or by crook it will be a very frustrating finale.

It would be devastating if a season that promised so much splutters and fizzles out now.


colin said:

Absolute garbage !

One up front chasing a game...two strikers on the bench.
Seems laughable really, but you get what you deserve in this game. And we deserve nothing.

Tactics? what Tactics? he waits till the seventieth minute at 3-0 down to make a change. I dont mind losing, it is the manner of defeat that gets me, from the management and coaching staff to the players, they all have to take responsibility. If a player is on the bench he is fit enough, he has to be, if not, leave him at home and put a fit kid in.

Look at our goal difference, It is a joke.

Mid table obscurity beckons.

Rant over, Weekend ruined, I am going to console myself in red wine. Note to TM, I will be using a corkscrew as there is a cork to extract, Object lesson in using the right tools for the job.

Smogonthetyne now in Nunny said:

Don't Panic!!

Still over 8 hours to get your mum sone flowers from the Garage.

Geordie la Forge said:

The commentary on BRMB made depressing listening. It sounded as if:

* We gave them room to play and it was a comfortable day for Blues

* Bennett going forward left room for Burke to run behind him and make good crosses

* Hines and Bates didn't fancy the physical battle with Zigic

* Arca was a passenger

Hope we improve for West Ham.

Ian Gill said:

Driving back muttering about statues in midfield when the horrible news of Muamba collapsing on the pitch. I wish him well.

halifaxp said:

A strange experience, that match!

I didn't feel too bad at half-time. We gave their giraffe a pretty easy goal, but fought back and bossed bits of the first-half. I wasn't without hope at the break. Bennett was defending reasonably well against Burke; passes were generally finding Boro lads; Bailey was snapping; McMahon brought a bit more passion than we saw against Leeds; Steele was doing his bit well enough; Hammill was thrusting forward well and looking like our most threatening weapon.

But there were bits of Boro faiblesse too: Thomson and Arca offered little forward thrust; long balls were leaving the Juke isolated and battling their centre halves seemingly for the sake of it; Seb was finding the physicality of the giraffe problematic; Hoyte, whom I have defended a good deal this season, was not quite one thing (defender) or another (attacking option).

Second half, well, the less said the better. As a positive person, I should just say this: we didn't quite give up, but I was not sure Mogga judged the situation as I would have wished. Hammill brought off? Main playing on the wing? No support during 90 minutes for the Juke? Thomson left on the park for the same period? And what has Ogbeche failed to offer as a sub?


The best part of the day for me was definitely a couple of Diet Cokes I enjoyed in the company of the unashamedly boozy regulars in the Cricketers' Arms. What a nice, friendly bunch!!

By the way, Jarkko sounds as if he's going to be arriving at the Navi late in the early afternoon, around 2 p.m. I dare say he will tell us all more when he posts on here.

Any road up, onwards and sideways with Thommo and the lads!

Never give up on Boro said:

Another sad woeful display at Birmingham as bad as Leeds. Same lethargic, clueless performance,devoid of ideas.

It's like playing with 10 men with Hoyte in the team. He won't chase a ball,when he gets it he won't run with it or he's hiding out on the touch line doing sod all. At least when Martin came on he got involved and showed interest.

Time for Bennett to be dropped,the lad gets turned inside out and left for dead week after week. His pathetic moment of petulance in injury time which resulted in a booking just about sums him up. Pity he doesn't show that aggression when he's defending. He needs to grow up instead of acting like a stupid kid.

Don't know what's going on in Mowbray's head at the moment with his team selections and substitutions and timing of them. It was obvious at half time things needed changing. We had one striker on the pitch and three on the bench yet waits until after 70 mins before he changes it,then what's the point??

I'd love to know what they do in training because once they get out on the pich they are clueless,don't seem to have any game plan or system or how to attack or defend. When to make a run,how to get into space,how to cross a ball,how to shoot? What do they actually practise?

I'm amazed we are still in a play off position tonight but I very much doubt we will be on Tues at 10pm

peterboroangel said:

The Muamba incident put things into perspective. Football is only a game after all!

Bad result today but hardly a shock, we seem to be running out of steam.

We need an injection of new blood - quick.

Nationwide said:

Well, I lost my optimism about the time I saw the line-up on the Beeb. What was the plan?? Just aim long balls and crosses at the Juke? So we don't have a Plan B, just an unfamiliar and one-dimensional Plan A? (Or one that should be unfamiliar, although we've resorted to enough of the long ball at times this season)

Ogbeche should definitely have been starting after his Leeds performance, Hoyte should have been given a rest, and I'd say the same of Bennett if I knew who to replace him with -- don't know what's going on with his head but it's certainly not in the game.

Hoyte is destined to forever litter his good performances with bad mistakes, but I'm sure I remember a very switched-on Bennett 12 months ago, being decisive and effective all along the left hand side. Now he loses the ball forward, he never picks it up at the back, just seems to get consistently caught between decisions.

The one upside to our set-up was that bringing anyone off the bench would count as a progressive substitution, which has been a Mogga weakness -- and he took his time about making them! And then managed to forget about Ogbeche and, from the sound of it (all I had was the Beeb and a Blue radio stream in time to catch the second two goals) isolate Main. As soon as they came on everything seemed to go through Smallwood and Martin.

Hopefully they managed to make enough of an impression for a change next week. I had this horrible feeling right from kick-off, like Strachan's ghost walking across my grave, and it turned out to be pretty accurate to my ears.

AV, I'm hoping there were positives to take from the game, give us a hand...for the first time I'm having serious doubts about our ability to make the play-offs. We're definitely out of sight of actual promotion, by either route. And still Ogbeche isn't getting a game! I can sort of understand holding the kids back, but him??

Sandy said:

The Leeds game of last Sunday was massive, win and there would be belief within the squad that we could mount a serious challenge for the top 2, with a real chance of winning at struggling Birmingham and West Ham. Lose as we did and lose faith and belief and mid table mediocrity beckons, sorry guys this is now happening.

Lot of talk about this team punching above their weight, I believe this is painfully true, and Boro's promotion charge will now slowly fade away and die. Mogga you have done a super job stabilised the ship, for this you can take a lot of credit, now its time for you to think of next season and where you need to strengthen to mount a real charge for the Premiership.

ron in the Delta said:

Definately need new blood injection we're running out of steam but we can't really grumble it's just that we started to believe it was going to happen this season........

Jarkko said:

BBC report: " Middlesbrough, who now slip to sixth in the table, were denied a late consolation by a contender for save of the season from Myhill, who somehow got down to deny Seb Hines."

We don't defend well and don't score. For the past few games most of the chances we have created have fell for Hines. I am not blaming him for not scoring but where are the goals from midfield and the strikers?

Disappointed. But still a chance to go up through play-offs. Up the Boro!

Percypieblocks said:

Well that's 4 live matches I've seen this season so far, scored 1 and conceded 10, says just about everything really.

We don't have many goals in the side anyway, so why 3 forwards left on the bench.
Normally when the team is announced, I can usually guess at the formation, not yesterday, after about 10 minutes it looked like 3-6-1.

In my opinion Mogga messes about too much with different formations, leaving the players unsure what is expected. I noticed when we conceded goals, on each occasion Bailey appeared to be showing his frustrations to the bench, more or less saying this is all wrong Boss but it wasn't changed until the 70th minute.

I've said before that unless we can obtain a couple of loanees (which appears unlikely at the minute), it's time for the likes of Arca and Hoyte to be relieved of their starting line ups followed closely by 'The Camel', 2 goals he gave away yesterday.
Put a couple of kids in as they cannot possibly do any worse.

I'm also starting to question the purchase of 'The Duke', he could have had 3 goals himself yesterday.

Not looking forward to the West Ham game on Tuesday.

Sorry for the gloomy post but anybody at the game yesterday will probably be feeling the same a me.

spartakboro said:

It's all gone a little hazy, mist before the eyes, mother. Are we passing away or just watching the Boro.

True feelings on the matter? Well not surprised just a little disappointed. Colin said he was after a cork screw, well it's certainly gone pear shaped.

Certain members of this erstwhile blog have ridiculed others for there 'Jonah-esque' warnings of doom and disaster imminent. The foreboding of watching/listening/reading defeats with player after match comments of 'We just didn't turn up!' but we are all assured it will be alright next time.

My own local hero Mogga stated quite recently in the excellent Gazette that we have a better away record and therefore we should look forward to an up turn in fortunes. I only wish that could be the case.

Unfortunately my earlier prediction of Wembley and play off final looks severely at risk given previous and not so recent performances.
UTB (said more in hope than certainty)

I know that the following is perhaps a comparison too far but I wonder if the Captain on the bridge of a sinking ship would be telling the crew 'Don't worry lads, the waters only up to our noses there's still a chance we'll make port and wasn't it worse last time' followed closely by 'We're still a work in progress, don't you know.'

Ian Gill said:

Never give up on Boro

The people behind me were giving Bennett a tad of abuse, even opined a red card for the challenge you mentioned may not be a bad thing and get him out of the team for a while.

I mentioned that would mean Hoyte at left back! They thought for a second and said 'fair point mate'

To be fair we had Robbo and Williams missing. Mogga could have put out

Mcmahon, Bates, Hine
Hoyte, Robbo, Williams, Bisla, Thommo, Arca and Bennett.

Bench of Juke, Mains, Emnes, Hammill and Ogbeche.

Of course the new subs rules strictly prohibit young attacking academy players nor are subs to be used before the 75th minute or losing 3-0 whichever comes sooner.

Colin -

What makes it worse is I havent had a drink for 4 weeks, the malt whisky bottles kept flasing before my eyes.

Ian Gill said:

Remiss of me, no hiding place with the West Ham game on TV. Getting my wife to lokc the malt whisky away.

Pedro de Espana said:

Dear o dear o dear. Just as well it is TM that`s the manager or there would be calls for his head by now from some quarters.

Yes he has a difficult job to do, and has done quite well getting to where we are now, especially with the restrictions he has had imposed on him, but then he knew that when he took the job.

For me it is all about next season now, yes plenty of points to play for, but we need to know who of the younger players are good enough to keep for the future, and also the fringe players.

To move this team forward is going to require a big injection of new players, to replace those too expensive to keep, and those not good enough to get us challenging for an automactic promotion spot next season.

As has been discussed before, and as AV has stated numerous times, yes you can get decent players for 3-4K a week, but they still cost reasonable money to buy, which we are told we do not have, unless we sacrifice the likes of Williams. The free transfers and loanees that TM has brought in have not exactly torn up roots.

Next season TM will not get the same leeway that he has received this one with the fans. After all for the majority, 1986 and all that is just folklore, its only us older fans that really remember those years.

john Powls said:

My full read out is in my Boro Banter piece - but what was that about? Work in progress?

What's progressive about 3-6-1 against a side on a poor run of form. It looked like the cones had come off best in training in the week and Mogga had decided to field the cones, so static were Boro yesterday.

And no changes until 15 minutes after Brum were three up when it was obvious after fifteen minutes of the first half what was up.

Another shambles. What's it going to be at West Ham - a flat back ten and a shambles hat-trick?

It's OK blaming the defence, Mogga - and no-one should let the players off the hook - but it's become fashionable amongst some Prem managers recently for them to take the blame when things go this badly wrong. Credit taken too when due, of course.

What about it, Mogga?

Nikeboro said:

How I wish I hadn't gone. I have yet to witness a win this season and, with a boatload of goals conceded, I've seen a mere single point gained.

This was mostly a performance from the bottom six not the top. When I saw the team selection I was unsure about the formation and tactics. Having seen the match, I'm even less sure. There was little discernable shape or cohesion.

Mogga has proven very talented at getting a lot out of a little. However his player selection is sometimes odd and, as often noted, his tactical use of substitutes is weak. He almost never makes the game-changing switches that the top managers make.

I continue to struggle to see what Thomson offers. Arca is a sad ghost of the good player he once was - he often falls short of even 'doing a job' for the team. Despite his improvement over the season, Hoyte had one of his neither-nowt-nor-summat games. Despite being starved of support or service, The Juke had a chances to make a difference but failed to threaten.

The defence was of particular concern. Yesterday we looked weak, disorganised and porous. Anybody making a direct run was in with a good chance of going all the way to a shot on goal. Bates & Hines looked intimidated by the giant Zigic. As others have commented, Bennett looked lost and left a lot of space behind him.

This is a notably weak division this year. There are some mediocre teams fighting for a top six place. After this performance it's difficult to see that outcome for Boro at the moment.

Who knows? Boro might bounce back and shock everybody with a result at W.Ham. More likely, hard on the heels of the home debacle against Leeds, yesterday's result looks likely to be repeated against W. Ham and leave us outside the top six, perhaps permanenetly.

Wayne Laville, Ormesby said:

What always makes me wonder is, when checking the BBC's statistics the opposing teams more often than not have commited twice as many fouls than the boro, yet we always! manage to aquire more cards?

Have the FA and their "dodgy" officials really got something against the Boro? Maybe they are showing us what happens when you confront them in court over the illegal deduction of those three points! and yesterday a late decision to rule what seemed a perfectly legitimate goal offside?

They stick posters all over the stadiums regarding respect! I'll start respecting officials when they can show me that they can do their job "honestly and fairly".

Grove Hill wallah said:

The fact that Julio Arca gets selected from the off speaks volumes. If I was a player kept on the bench because of him, I would seriously consider my future at the club.

No more headlines from me, mea culpa.

Steve said:

Oh well that's back to back 'disasters' and from what i saw yesterday i really cannot see much changing at West Ham

What has happened in the last two games? Ok some of us will see its been coming and i would challenge anyone to tell me when we have played well since Xmas?....ok maybe the first 40 mins at Millwall.

We look like a team of 'strangers' and have no plan A/B or C....we look frankly clueless. We simply have too many players out of form at a stage were we need to be coming in to form.

I do not really want to single out players but it has to be said Thomson/Arca and Bennett are woefully out of form (if Thomson ever has been in form is open to discussion)

I have said a few times that Thomson and Arca must never play together in the same midfield as they are so far off the pace its unreal. I can only assume Bennett is playing because we have no one else? I would take advantage of Pompeys plight and loan Greg Halford off them.

I am having a game off on Tuesday after eight games on the bounce. I think its going to be another Boro 'live' super show. I am back though for Bristol City so best get my money on 0-0 or at best a scrappy 1-0 against a team who are poor away from home.... what odds City playing 4-5-1?

Redcar Red said:

Strange that we set up with what looked originally a seemingly attacking formation, three at the back - but then with two defensive wing backs. Then one defensive enforcerer in Bailey and then Tommo and Arca who you couldn't exactly describe as attack minded.

I'm sure Mogga is more qualified than me but without any creativity apart from Arca's ability to pick out a killer pass I'm lost as to how we were supposed to actually score? Putting on more attack minded players (albeit out of position) when we are 3-0 down is mystifying but perhaps the plan was to draw from the outset, it certainly baffled me and my amateur non factual opinion. The scenario that Hines had our best opportunities in the last two games tells a better story than I ever could.

Its looking like since the Juke arrived our fortunes have slid backwards rather than improve. As each game goes by he is increasingly looking like the Boro equivalent of Torres (in fairness Cov fans did say as much at the time). The question is has he been the catalyst of our demise or has it been the complete change in tactical philosophy? I'm not sure what happened to the footballing philosophy but everything looks to have gone awry. And Hammill looks like someone who is merely blocking the progress of Halliday and Reach.

What was a resurgent 2011 is now cascading into a “deja vu” of 2010 in 2012. The standard of football is now as bad as when Mac was in charge but without the drab effectiveness.

The Goalkeeping scenario wasn't made any better by Saturday’s back page in the Gazette proclaiming Steele to be the No.1 (I'm not sure what the logic was of even raising the topic!).

Hoyte's questionable ability at this level, added to the two new incumbents Juke and Hamill (and even Nimely beforehand) looking to offer nothing that we didn't already have with Ogbeche and Mains (and even Williams or Franks). The Midfield berth occupied by Tommo (albeit rarely) again doesn't give opportunities to Park or Smallwood.

I just hope that this is simply a period of historical traits which Mogga goes through occasionally so we can only trust he gets his head around things sooner rather than later.

Tuesday night needs a return to what worked earlier on in the season and ditch the new faces and put in Main for Scotty's role. I would even consider putting Ogbeche in instead of Emnes and leave him on the bench unless his confidence has returned.

As things stand it is looking ominously like the reverse of last season when we sneaked into mid-table. This season appears to have been fun while it lasted and definitely an overachievement but there will need to be some careful analysis and examination during the summer of who and what adds value and who or what doesn't and more importantly perhaps why?

On a much more serious note poor Fabrice Muamba's situation puts things into perspective. Hope the lad recovers quickly.

Jarkko said:

Percypieblocks said: "In my opinion Mogga messes about too much with different formations, leaving the players unsure what is expected."

Yes, we need to find some consistency as we had all the year 2011 - especially the start of this season. I think the players pick must show more composure. Perhaps they need to play in the same formation for a longer time? We must start play as a TEAM.

Up the Boro!

Nurk said:

Striking – our main goalscorers have been Emnes, McDonald and Robson, none of whom (for different reasons) played, so no surprise that goals were hard to come by. Jutkiewicz battled for 90 and showed great heart, but did miss chances.

Midfield – we only had one of the first choice away midfield on the pitch (Bailey) with Williams, Robson and Haroun missing. Most championship sides would have struggled in this situation. Hammill looked skilful, lively and committed. Not sure Joe Bennett was as poor as some have suggested – seemed to me that he made his winger look foolish at times, and didn’t get much cover from midfield.

Unfortunately Thomson and Arca just seem too far off the pace although they show good touches at times. Smallwood would benefit from going out on loan, but at present at least he would offer mobility and bite in the middle. Bailey will hopefully regain his dominant form as he gets back into the groove.

Defenders need more of the Tony McMahon fighting spirit – we need clenched fists when things go wrong, no more shrugging of shoulders and holding arms out (the body language of surrender). Everyone needs to bust a gut to get back if the ball goes past them. Struck me again what a technically good player McMahon is, killing the ball dead from a couple of awkward lofted long passes, and generally good with set pieces, though unable to produce a repeat of Leicester. He seemed to decide as a matter of principle to get booked towards the end, as if he couldn’t leave the field without that protest at all that happened.

Ten games left, five wins and a couple of draws could get us into the playoffs, hopefully with Rhys Williams back in the side by then and Hammill integrated more effectively.

Denis said:

Nothing redeeming about this match,for us to to gain confidence about forthcoming fixtures.

For the first time I am questioning Mogga's team selections, tactics and formation, to my untrained eyes it just seems an incoherent jumble of players that deteriorates into a mess of red shirts aimlessly running around the pitch. Trivial and simplistic I know, but what else to reason when opponents are not marked, left in space and the tallest player on the pitch left on his own to score.

We are failing through ineptitude not bad luck which is more galling. We have reached the silly season so we are just as likely to reach the play offs through the bad management of others but do not hold your breath.

I have not lost the faith but I am losing confidence in a team that is becoming impossible to measure.Less squeaky bum time but more scratching your head in disbelief

adymac said:

Fortunately I didn't have to travel far after the match as I live in Daventry but I felt bad for the fans who had to travel back to Teesside after paying good money to see that shambles.

I firmly point the blame at Mogga's door for not addressing what I consider to the teams main weaknesses. For me Steele is not the right keeper for us; I don't blame him for the goals but he fails to command his box and fails to communicate to his defenders when they are out of position. I think he worries more about his own job and positioning than what the defenders are doing.

The problem with this is if the attackers keep having free attempts at goal, they will eventually beat you. The defenders don't protect him because he doesn't communicate with them effectively. On one occasion Burke drilled a low pass across the box that Bates booted out for a corner. Steel was directly behind the Bates and could have screamed "Keepers!!" before collecting the ball and retaining possession. I would be interested in how our performances/results differed when we had an influential keeper such as Ikeme/Smith in goal; this could confirm my opinion or destroy it.....

I felt sick after watching this today, the first goal was on a plate.

Losing faith in the Mogganaut...........

boro1958 said:

The Mogga effect has well and truly wore off now.

The way we are playing i am predicting a midtable finish which doesn't auger well for season ticket sales.The club is at an important crossroads and one of two things could happen eg the team could implode leading to disillusionment among the fans and players,leading to a mass exodus or we could finish brightly with optimism.

For the latter to occur Mogga needs to show some bravery and drop some of the ageing boring players and get some youthful enthusiasm into the side, after all the general consensus is that we have one of the best academies in the country but thats no good if you haven't got the bravery to give them a chance.

Ian Gill said:


Never mind those on the bench, what about all the academy graduates that we are told bring plaudits from the football world. They seem to have gone off to join Josh Who? Maybe we should get Brian Cox on Boro+ to discuss black holes

Even Main only got a game because not even Mogga could play Arca up front.

A tad of support for Bennett. His role was as wing back therefore his job was to get up the pitch to give us attacking width to ping the ball in to the strikers and midfield players breaking in to the box - I typed that with a straight face and stone cold sober.

When he does break forward the idea is that one of our highly paid, finely tuned athletes drops in behind to cover if needed. I'm sorry I cant stop a giggle escape my lips.

gt said:

Id like to see Mogga try something different. I'd put the Juke on the bench (more of an impact later on)

I'd play Ogbetche striker and I'd also play Arca high up the field with a free role. He wont have to worry about chasing back all the time. No matter what you think of julio he has a good touch and vision so play through him off the striker and I think he can create chances as well as holding the ball up,

its hard to do anything with the defence,as it seems theres no one else you can pick, same with midfield right now, so I'd go 4-1-3-1-1


McMahon, Hines, Bates, Reach
Hammill, Smallwood, Thomson:

tim from sa said:

No goals for in the last two games.

One up front was OK to start but not for seventy minutes and three nil down.

Once again our inability to get anything from the teams around us seems to suggest reaching the play offs would see as out over two legs as we will be up against the the teams around us.

We are still sixth which is a play off place but suggest its time to put some youngsters in if we are not going to get any new blood via the loan system.
Still feel Thommmo is not the answer in his current form. But now Williams out for a bit.

Fear for Tuesday night but hey we are Boro anything can happen.

Smoggy In Exile said:

After the Leeds debacle I rather confidently predicted that we could still make the automatic promotion places with a good run of wins.

I take it all back. If we don't get a positive result at West Ham tomorrow (a spirited draw would do) then I can't even see us making the play offs. Too many teams are coming into form, or showing a decent fight, at a time when ours seems to have deserted us.

Powmill said:

I didn't see the game and couldn't even follow #borolive on Saturday, but reading the posts on here, this was more of the same as against Leeds.

Losing a game is bearable when it is clear that the team has really put the effort in. Against Leeds I was galled by the lack of commitment any of the team were showing and it sounds similar at Birmingham.

Two things to say about this. Firstly that even if the tactic and the formation and the selection is wrong (for which the manager and coaches have to take responsibilty), individual players can still stand up to be counted - no, individual players SHOULD stand up to be counted.

Other than the picking of individuals into the team that do not bring any commitment even when (epsecially when) things are going wrong, you can't blame the manager for players failing to make their presense felt on the pitch: that is down to the players.

Secondly, it is maybe overdue now that TM gives the youngsters (Main, Reach, Smallwood and others) their chance. They at least will play with commitment. That commitment just might be enough to tip the balance back in our favour a bit. After all, fortune favours the bold.

Thirdly (a bit of a Monty Python moment there ...) Why play Juke on his own up front. He needs someone to be playing with him. It is much more of a handful for a defence to have to cover not only a target man, but also one (or two) mobile individuals playing off him. If it is two , there is the scope for these to be mobile, alternating left/right inside and wide. Movement that will keep even the best of defences stretched.

Come on Boro. Go for it. This year it is there for any team with the will to take it. That could be us. Whatever happens, I'd be far happier missing out on going up knowing that the team were really going for it, rather than missing out because the team repeatedly showed less than 100% commmitment.

Redcar Red said:

Reflecting over the weekend, we have a few problems that Mogga needs to fix and quickly.

Goalkeeping: as Mogga would say, we are where we are, unless he deems it worthwhile to get a seasoned old pro in like Smith last year but that in itself could destabilise the back four (although arguably it couldn't be much worse) and after his proclamation that Steele is No.1 highly unlikely.

Central defence: Bates and Hines is all we have so it picks itself. At right back McMahon offers more ruthlessness than Hoyte and for that reason alone to bring stability at the back would help especially with Hines finding his feet for the first time of having a run week in, week out in the starting 11. Left back Joe needs a break and perhaps Julio could fill in with Reach ahead of him or vice versa.

Up front the only mean and hungry, selfish looking striker at the moment is Ogbeche. For that reason I would put my trust and belief in him and give him a start and stick Juke on the bench.

The next problem is that Emnes doesn't play well off a striker, he tends to do his own thing in isolation which is why he has never linked up at all with Juke. For me, play him out wide where he can cut in and/or win free kicks just outside the box. Plus if Emnes is wide right then all the more reason to have a Rock like Macca behind him.

This leaves us with who do we put alongside Bails in the middle if Reach/Arca is left and Emnes right midfield. The obvious one for me is Smallwood as he is more of a threat going forward than Tommo who instinctively slows it down and plays it tight, usually sideways and in so doing invites pressure and with it problems.

The last piece of the jigsaw is should we go for Main up front with Ogbeche or should we stick Martin in just behind him and ahead of Bails and Richie. Personally away from home I think I would stick Martin in just behind Ogbeche with the option to throw caution to the wind later and bring Mains on for Martin.

Its an easy game in theory and on paper but a few of the lads need a rest and tactically we need to try something fresh (but something which they all understand their roles and responsibilities unlike the last two debacles).

As a final dare I would stick Luke Williams on the bench, he is an unknown quantity and has a bit of endeavour about him and just might stretch and drag defences out of position failing that Cameron Park. Halliday is another who has been forgotten and if he can repeat his effort at Ipswich last season after which he was forgotten then its worth a punt.

Doing the same old things in the same old way and expecting different results is not logical and unlikely to show improvement. Right now we have little to lose and a more up-tempo Boro has a lot more to gain.

Nigel Reeve said:

I'm not sure losing two on the trot is a disaster. Losing at Brum wasn't a big surprise either. The tactics may have failed, the players under performed, we're not in a crisis situation yet. Nor will we be if we lose to the hammers.

Perhaps Mogga's tactics for West Ham should be the simple tried and trusted Championship manager playing away from home against a top team tactics. Be unadventurous, shut up shop, two lines of four and a 'they shall not pass' mentallity. West Ham find that system as hard to break down at home as we do. we may snatch a 0-0 or even a smash & grab 0-1 win.

paul bell said:

Amazing isn't it, all this support for TM just because he is local and yet GS1 was sacked when the club were second behind NUFC.

TM has taken Boro from second to probably mid table obscurtiy but will he be sacked? I don't think so. The real culprit is SG. No money, then no promotion. I don't care if he is a football fan, the club needs an injection of serious cash and if SG hasn't got it, he is no use.

**AV writes: "This is a local club for local people, we'll have no strangers here.... we didn't burn him!"

thirsk red said:

We get the team we deserve...16,000 crowds all season at home when we were constantly in the top six and even looking at the top two and with a local hero in charge was so disappointing.

We should have been getting 20 - 23,000 and until the stay at homes decide that they really want a succesful local football team and come back giving TM some cash to strenghthen the local core of the team I fear we will fall short of getting back in the Premier League.

Mowbray's worked miracles. He makes mistakes like any manager... but just remember what a mess we were in when he took over.

BoroPhil said:

We should definitely play it tight at West Ham tomorrow, their fans are worse than ours for booing off the team if they aren't winning at HT (or FT), so the longer we can keep it 0-0, the better.

We talk about fixing problems, but this squad has got us into the good position in the first place, we don't need to panic and start making wholesale changes.

Cardiff couldn't beat Burnley yesterday, this is going to be a nervy run-in for all of the teams involved with plenty of ups and downs. We can only hope that we keep our nerve better than the rest.

Andy R said:

Out of form and missing two of our best three players against third placed West Ham? Doesn't sound promising but at least they have struggled for wins at home lately.

I agree that we need to get back to keeping it tight. For that reason I would play a 4231 with two protective midfielders.

I would play Smallwood with Bailey in the defensive midfield roles, Juke up front to hold it up and Hamill, Emnes and Reach/Halliday/Park rotating behind him to provide pace and mobility on the counter.

The fullback positions are debatable in any permutation but I would be tempted to revert to the two that worked well at Sunderland - McMahon at right back, Hoyte on the left.

If there was a disconnect between players and management about the system against Birmingham perhaps Mogga should ask the players for their input on tactics. Togetherness, belief and confidence in what you are trying to achieve is probably more important than the tactics themselves anyway.

paul bell said:

People need to remember that without Steve Gibson, there would be no Boro. Steve Gibson has done and is still doing an immense job and with the brilliant Tony Mowbray at the helm, promotion is still a probability rather than a possibility.

We dont need to splash any cash as the new crop of marvellously talented youngster will take us to and keep us where we rightfully deserve to be, which is in the upper reaches of the Premier League.

**AV writes: LOL.

Ian Gill said:

AV -

A pretty poor match, I would dispute the 343 you alleged we were trying to play. From first viewing it looked like 361, if I am generous 3511.

Juke was isolated and let down by poor service, his control, pace, ability to hold the ball up. I cant criticise his efforts to link play and bring other players in because no one in a red shirt got close enough for Juke to try it.

Mogga can point fingers at nearly all the players on the pitch. The questions to be asked relate to what is going on between the ears of the players. On Saturday they appeared to be out of sync from the kick off with no one certain what they were doing, maybe they just were not happy with the line up, tactics or their roles.

Tomorrow night sees a visit to West Ham and it is live on TV. Will Mogga have them slaving over myriad permutations to stop West Ham or send them out to impose themselves on the game?

Smoggy In Exile said:

The main issue with Mogga is that sometimes he appears to be too clever by half.

He has openly stated that he switches systems and personnel to match the opposition. This fits in with his "cagey first 20mins" feel your way into the game comments in the past.

As a tactic it is reasonably sound, especially when played with intelligent, quality players. Man Utd or Chelsea should be capable of switching systems per game and even in game to suit the circumstances. But when your squad is comprised of youngsters, on loan misfits and mono-paced midfield plodders, I can't help but thinking you're asking too much of them.

The truly successful teams at this level, like Norwich and Swansea last year have a defined style, and the personnel slot into known positions.

Secondly, changing yourself to suit the opposition can mean too great a focus on nullifying their threats and not enough on providing your own. Perhaps this theory is borne out in our abysmal goal scoring record, as much as it is a product of the players. The positive is that it means your defence should be pretty tight. However Warnock has proved you can still do that whilst having your own clear system.

Whether Mogga's way is the right way or not, I don't know. We can't deny that he has turned a poor team into promotion challengers with not much more than spare change found down the back of Gibson's sofa. The problem is when it starts to go wrong, due to fatigue or injuries or loss of form.

I can't help but thinking that switching to a clear system, and to fit the players who are fit into that, would be the best way forward. We were excellent against Sunderland with our front three and relatively narrow midfield, either this or our 352 formation away from home appears to be our natural system - so why not pick one and stick to it?

kev B said:

Predictable defeat, and maybe more to come tomorrow. However, the most surprising thing from Mogga is his about turn on loan signings. It appears we are now not bringing anyone into a wafer thin squad, and Mogga appears to be stating that they would be a waste of time by the time they come up to speed. Interesting.

Pedro de Espana said:

Just a point during this present debate on the defence being, well not doing it´s job.

When Boro were doing quite well at the start of the season, and the defence playing its part, two of the regulars were McManus and Ikeme. In fact McManus played some 17 games. Maybe we should have kept him. I do hope that Bates or Hines do not get injured.

Clive Hurren said:

Not to worry, lads and lasses. Another 3 points and we'll be numerically safe from relegation.

richared evans said:

A few of us have on the blog have, rightly, queried what will happen next season if we do go up in the next few weeks.

Perhaps the bigger question should be, what will happen if we don’t get promoted.

Yes, we’ll miss out on Premier League money, whether permanent or parachute, but the, increasingly tiring, ‘work in progress’ argument remains valid.

Bottom line, we’re not really good enough, or ready, to go up now.

Although we can be more judgmental of Mogga as the season ebbs on, it’s still not time to pass judgement on his reign. It isn’t yet his team, though the team’s outlook and tactics most certainly are. Once the Scots, and maybe Scott too, go then it will be.

We’re not yet a proper unit and a final flourish now with a team of younger players may well be the best impetus of all for next year.

But herein lies my only criticism of Mogga. He seems the most cautious of men with a tendency to hold back and stick with the established. Smallwood, Williams, Park, Reach - give them a go. Please. Clearly he will know more than the supporters do here but ultimately no-one will know if these players can hack it unless they’re given a good go.

Jack Charlton, arguably still our best manager, missed the chance of a title shot in ’75 because of his off-field caution too. He didn’t, and wouldn’t as myth has it, buy that extra forward (David Cross) because he wanted to hold onto the club’s cash.

Mogga, sadly, has no such cash concerns but caution too is getting the better of him.

It doesn’t really matter re: promotion this time - we’re probably better off in the Championship for now and if the likes of Bates jump ship as a result, so be it - but for next season and beyond, Mogga you need to let go a bit.

Our football on the park can be very good, it’s just a case of getting the right players out there too.

Another loss on Tuesday night to come, then onwards and upwards. Maybe AV’s pre season prediction of a Wembley final is just the impetus and resolve we need for next year

Grove Hill wallah said:

"Bubbling Boro Burst Bubble Blowers Bubbles"

(sorry, couldn't help myself)

**AV writes: Hammered! (Works both ways.)

ron in the delta said:

Hang on, Justin Hoyte may not be mentally capable of playing tonight due to Muamba's condition?

Where is the back bone, where is the I'm playing for Muamba tonight, I don't want to let the fans down, or the club (who are paying his wages)? Also Bolton may pull out of the FA Cup as the young players may not be mentally tough enough to return to Spurs. Where is the "let's get back there and stuff Spurs for Muamba"?

What happens to the 19 year old soldier in Afghanistan who sees his friends shot, blown up, seriously injured. No time off there to mentally re-adjust. I dispair.

The stats show Boro have a very good chance of gaining a draw tonight, but they also did for the Birmingham fixture. Without Robson and Williams I do hope they don't crumble under the mental pressure and expectations of the fans.

Guess the get out of jail card for them all is we didn't really expect them to be where they are in the League right now. Mid table at best until Mowbray gets the team he wants. But now we expect a storming finish, too bad we don't look like getting any fresh blood. Look what it did for Reading.

**AV writes: Every individual is different in the way they deal with the emotional demands of human situations. Not everyone could be as focussed as Billy Sharp for instance in his own personal trauma earlier this season. Those kind of decisions should be left down to the individual, as they would in any workplace.

But on the wider perspective you make a valid point. Collectively society and institutions have made a post-Diana step change towards a mawkish conspicuous compassion that is putting pressure on clubs and the game to be seen to be doing something to visibly show 'respect' for every newsworthy event in public life.

Soon we will be having weekly minute's applause for everyone and everything and any B-list celeb ever seen in public with a football shirt on. That runs the danger of devaluing what should be a spontaneous and sincere symbolic gesture by supporters and dragooning them into compulsory compassion.

At risk of sounding hard-hearted, these gestures should be reserved for people who have an obvious and strong link with the club concerned. Anyone who wants to show respect for anyone or anything else beyond that have plenty of opportunities in their lives away from football to do so.

Ian Gill said:

So any loans seem unlikely, that will reduce Mogg's options.

Bails, Thommo and Arca are not an option together in central midfield.

It may be time for some of the fringe players to step forward. The likes of Morrison, Bates, Wheater, Johnson, Downing and McMahon were no older than the current crop when they made a mark.

Over to you Mogga, don't say you dont want to throw them in because Morrison and Downing made their marks in the 1-1 draw at ManU.

Besides which they have squad numners and are paid money, if they are not capable move them off the books and help the bottom line.

I have faith in them.

Benny Brown said:

All this season I have been watching all the Premier League matches paying special attention to the teams at the bottom of the league - Wigan,s, Blackburn, West Brom etc - and find they are all in a different class in the football stakes when compared to the Boro.

They play good possession football along the ground and are good to watch. They are obviously not competitive with the top teams at the final crunch, but are still good to watch.

Now take Boro. I would not go down to Tilery Rec, or Claireville Common, to see them for free. The rubbish they play is unbelievable. Why oh why would the average Boro supporter want us to get promotion with this Rabble, even with an influx of six good Premier League players we would not be compitative?

Let us be satesfied with a new building programme to produce a young footballing team for the future. I feel so sorry for Steve Gibson who has given so much of his time and wealth to the Boro to be left with this sort of shambles when they take the field

Bob said:

At the time I wasn't in favour of Mowbray as candidate for the managers position because I didn't think his record was that good.

When he got the job I happily accepted the decision and looked at the positives. The main positive I anticipated was that Boro would be involved in lots of exciting, goal filled games, which seemed to be a trademark of Mowbray's West Brom team, and even during his brief stay at Celtic.

His first half a season seemed to bring some of that, a 4-3, a 3-3, a few 3-2 or 2-3's, a 2-5 against Reading, so I was expecting more of the same this season.

So despite our relatively successful season, and the fact that amazingly we are still in with a chance of promotion, the most prominent thing to say about this season has been how dull it's been.

A few people have been using the word 'cautious' to describe Mowbray, and it would appear they are right, but it's the last thing I expected.

spartakboro said:

Boro Ham it up to make Pork Scratchings of the Opposition!

Any good, AV?

Liked the Bubbles motif.


**AV writes: Upton Spark! Boro Ignite Play-off Push

spartakboro said:

**AV writes: Upton Spark! Boro Ignite Play-off Push - I like it, yesss I like it! VG AV

Boro Defy Debt to Push for Premier League Profit. Mogga Expects No Poultry Response!

Eh! Eh!


Werdermouth said:

I would say I'm now cautiously pessimistic about our chances of making the play-offs. It's looking more and more like Boro are running out of steam (and ideas).

It's been targeted at Mogga that he doesn't know what his best team is and I think I'm beginning to join him on that one. The fact that we're conceding bad goals and also failing to score seems to point at the midfield being the main problem - OK you can add to that defensive errors and poor finishing up front but that was always going to be the case with our squad.

We seem to have too many players who are either out of form or lacking match fitness - it also can't help not having a settled side playing in a well understood system in order to develop the partnerships needed to succeed across the pitch.

So I fear that the games are coming too quickly to address the problems on the training pitch until after the season has finished - plus what happens now if Bates or Hines get injured or red-carded? Where are the much needed loans?

I'm afraid it will be Wurst Ham bring home the bacon tonight.

Ian Gill said:

Werdermouth -

Wurst Ham! Thats shocking

Lets home that when the whistle sounds it will be gamm on.

Maybe we can get in some loan players from Parma because we are playing like rank hamateurs.

**AV writes: Is there any rasher thing than unleashing a pork product pun-fest?

Werdermouth said:

Excellent - let the pork product pun-fest begin...

Let's hope the players don't produce the recent balony they've been serving up otherwise some of them could get the chop.

**AV writes: Let's just hope we don't get roasted.

Andy R said:

Pork puns? Really?

Whatever. Let's just hope for a crackling performance.

spartakboro said:

All I can say is that it's a good job we're not playin the Trotters or we may get trampled underfoot.


halifaxp said:

Benny Brown -

if you would not go to Tilery Rec or Claireville Common to watch Boro for free, then do we take it that you don't watch them? (As you have been watching all the Premier matches all season as well, it seems you can't possibly.) Yet you still feel competent to judge their play??

I'm not disagreeing with your judgment lately, by the way, just wondering how you can feel equipped to make it!

Powmill said:

Let's hope is is a crackling game for the armchair pun-dits and that the Boro can g-rind out a good result. Especially hope that none of the ham-actors from the Leeds and Birming'ham games take the stage, tonight we want the real thing.


Colin said:

Ian Gill that is shocking!

Lets get be "rind" the lads tonight, hopefully 3 points will "sow" the seeds for a promotion push. I will settle for a Boar draw.

AV -

Never mind tonights match report blog...get commenting on our Financial state in the recently released accounts. Anybody in doubt as to SG commitment to this football club needs to read it and understand.

Oh and regarding Muambe, Richard Littlejohn in the Mail today sums it up perfectly for me. I am not always in agreement with what he says, he is what he is, but this time he is bang on the money.

**AV writes: Boro's financial's have been in the Gazette today and tomorrow we have some background from people who know about these things plus a bit on the implications of the Football Financial Fair Play rules.

Ian Gill said:

Lets hope for a streaky goal to prevent us being on the back foot.

If we neeed to g rind it out so be it, maybe a result in the smoke would cure our current malaise. If so we may get on a trott er of a gud run and then we could win in some sty le.

Thats it, no more pork related puns, just a good result tonight.

**AV writes: There's so many in there I'm surprised it got through the spam filter.

Benny Brown said:

I have just watched the West Ham Boro encounter. What difference in the Boro performance, good open on the ground passing finding a man in open spaces, minimum long ball played and we should have won in the end. This bodes well for the future if we can stick to these sort of tactics, we should at least make play offs. Did Tony see the light or has he been reading our comments AV.

Benny Brown said:

Halifax,I have watched all the Boro matches on TV as well as all the highlights, we get Championship matches so I manage a very fair quota of Engllsh football every week, besides all the other divisions from the Football League every week.

I also saw the Juninho match at the Riverside when visiting Teesside last year, I was also an active player in Senior Amatuer football, Pro Non League football, and played pro football in South Africa, besides being on Boro,s book as as teenager.

So I think my background gives me the experience to comment on the Boro when I see them playing utter rubbish also to comment on the Boro when they play good honest football, as against West Ham.UP the Boro.

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